Original Australian One Sheet movie poster. The Empire Strikes Back (also known as Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back) is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film's story and serving as executive producer. The second instalment in the original Star Wars trilogy, it was produced by Gary Kurtz for Lucasfilm and stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. Following a difficult production, The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980. It has become the most critically acclaimed chapter in the Star Wars saga; it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.